B2MeM Prompt and Path: “The gods were gathered on guarded heights, of doom and death deep they pondered. Sun they rekindled, and silver Moon they set to sail on seas of stars.” JRR Tolkien, Völsungakvida en Nÿja. Purple Path.
Format: Short Story
Genre: Angst, h/c
Characters: Aragorn, Ioreth, OCs
Creator’s Notes (optional): A sequel to “The Trespasser” and “The Rescuer.” Morwen is herb mistress at the Houses of Healing.
Summary: Morwen feels unappreciated.
Morwen tapped on the door of the warden’s room early one spring morning.
“Come in!” called Tarostar. “Oh, it’s you, Mistress Morwen. I hoped it was one of the healers telling me they could work today. This fever epidemic has sadly depleted their numbers so I have sent messages asking for extra help from those off duty and retired .”
“Healers need herbs to treat the patients,” Morwen replied somewhat sharply. “I came to tell you we need to buy more ginger root and turmeric.”
Tarostar waved his hand vaguely. “Send word to the merchants who supply whatever is needed. I have no time at present for such trivial matters.”
Morwen left the room struggling to control her irritation. She might not be a healer, but what would the healers do without the potions and remedies she mixed to treat the ills they diagnosed?
She was so preoccupied with her thoughts that she almost bumped into Dame Iorwen.
“Oh there you are!” said the healer, who came bustling along the corridor from the opposite direction. “I was looking for you to mix me some raspberry tea, but as I couldn’t find you, I mixed it myself. Poor Mistress Andreth can’t wait all day!”
“She needs her ginger tea too to settle her stomach,” said Morwen.
“I know that, dear, I am her healer,” said Ivorwen. “You can bring some in an hour.”
Feeling thoroughly out of sorts, Morwen made her way to the herbarium and started work preparing elderberry tinctures to treat the fever patients with. She had not been working long when Barahir, one of the youngest healers came in. “I need some comfrey tea for an elderly patient’s arthritis,” he said.
“I would suggest a poultice instead,” said Morwen. “The tea can damage the liver.”
“Are you the healer or am I?” snapped Barahir. “I want what is best for my patients.”
“So do I,” said Morwen. “I do not make comfrey tea. It is too dangerous. Either take a poultice or a salve for your patient.”
Barahir almost snatched the jar from her hand and stormed out of the herbarium.
Morwen sank down on her chair. She knew she was ill-suited to be a healer, despite having training, but had always believed that she made a valuable contribution with her knowledge of herb lore. It seemed, though, that the healers thought otherwise. Morwen shivered and threw more wood on her stove.
The day wore on. Morwen could not get warm. She chided herself for being fooled by the spring sunshine and not donning an extra petticoat. Her throat started to hurt. Maybe she was getting a cold. She knew she should take some of the elderberry tincture, but she felt rather queasy and disliked the taste of the mixture at the best of times.
Her head started to ache as she methodically chopped herbs. She felt very tired but there was so much work to be done.
A few hours later, Dame Ioreth put her head around the door.
“Can I help you, mistress?” Morwen’s voice sounded strange and it was an effort to get the words out.
“I came to see why you had not come for your midday meal.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“You don’t sound yourself at all, dear.” Dame Ioreth advanced into the room. “You must eat or you’ll make yourself ill like my sister who almost wasted away. Why you look quite pale. I think I should examine you.”
Morwen tried to get to her feet to tell her to go away and promptly swooned.
Time had no meaning in this bleak cold place; Morwen might have been there for hours, days, months, or even years. She was in a tower looking out towards the utmost West. Somewhat to her surprise, she could see the Valar far away in Valinor. At least, she assumed the beings were the Valar. She had little interest in Celestial Beings. It was nothing like what the tales she’d heard depicted, though. It was a cold, barren wasteland and the Valar were grim and stern as they debated her doom.
“She must die,” said Manwë.”
“All the Secondborn must receive the Gift of Ilúvatar,” said Varda.
“There is no light left for the children,” said Yavanna. “First we must kindle the sun and set the moon to sail on silver seas.”
Much to Morwen’s amazement, the King appeared clutching a golden disk and a flint. With the flint he set the disk alight and cast it into the sky. She was surrounded by warmth and light. A familiar voice called her name.
Morwen opened her eyes to meet the warm grey eyes of the King. Beside him, stood Ioreth, smiling at her, her eyes filled with relief.
To her dismay, Morwen realised was lying in bed wearing only a nightgown. Why was she never at her best when the King appeared? She recognised the room as one in the Houses. Another worry gnawed at her mind. “My cat?” she asked.
“Don’t you worry, dearie, I’ve been feeding him. I brought him a nice bit of fish this morning fresh from the market. He ate every bit and tomorrow I'll see what the butcher has. His steak is very tasty or I might buy a bit of mince.”
“What happened?” Morwen’s mouth was so dry she could hardly speak. The King filled a glass of water from a pitcher by her bed and held it so she could drink.
“You gave me a right fright, dearie, collapsing like that, “ said Ioreth. “You’ve had the fever that’s been going around. Why didn’t you say something?”
“I did not realise I had the fever. I thought I merely had a cold and was tired.”
“We tried all the remedies on you, but nothing would work, so I sent for Lord Elfstone here, and now you’ll be right as rain after some rest and in no time you’ll be back home with your cat. We’ll be right glad to have you back at work too. It’s too much for my old hands chopping herbs for hours on end and that Barahir nearly poisoned a patient and Ivorwen keeps dishing out tea instead of tincture as she isn’t confident with mixing them and no one knows where anything is!”
Aragorn turned to the old woman. “Will you fetch Mistress Morwen some elderberry tincture, please and maybe ask the cook to make some broth for later?”
Ioreth looked at her and then at the King rather doubtfully.
“I don't need a chaperone, Dame Ioreth,” said Morwen. “I know and trust the King.”
“I won’t be long then, dearie,” said Ioreth before hurrying away.
“Does aught trouble you beside your illness, mistress?” Aragorn asked after she had gone. “I believe something had distressed you and your body was not fighting the fever as it should.”
“It is nothing.” Morwen sighed then realised the King would expect more of an explanation. It seemed as if he has somehow been inside her mind. The thought troubled her less than she expected it to. “I was foolish to be upset, but three people made me feel very lowly compared to the healers just before I became ill. I was feeling I am of little use.”
“You know how to act as a healer if you are needed to,” said Aragorn. “I am certain that what good Dame Ioreth said just now should convince you just how much you are needed here. In fact, the Warden would like you to take on an apprentice of your choice, as the Houses have suffered so in your absence. You could then devote more time to herb lore and the finer arts of mixing remedies and less to chopping and bottling. I have some books on Elven herb lore I think you would enjoy.”
Morwen smiled. “I should like that.”
“You should rest now, Mistress Morwen.” Aragorn rose from his chair to leave. “You should be back in your herbarium in a few days.”
“Thank you, sire. Thank you for rekindling the sun.”
“Rekindling the sun?”
“Yes, in my fever dreams it had gone, but you set it alight and cast it into the sky.”
Aragorn threw back his head and laughed. “I have done many things, but never did I think to make the sun rise! That is well beyond any power of mine.”
Morwen laughed too. “Be glad you do not have to make it rise on the morrow and every morrow after that!” Then she closed her eyes and fell into a refreshing sleep.
A/n. “The Fever” is influenza. Elderberry is a traditional remedy for colds and flu.